Ever since my last 50 miler, I have taken a little break from running. I have joined a Crossfit gym and absolutely love it. Crossfit is a functional fitness program done in a group training environment. It incorporates everything from weightlifting to gymnastics to running to rope climbing. I heard of Crossfit when I swam at UC Santa Cruz because the water polo coaches were Crossfit coaches and used it in the water polo team's training. I had always wanted to give it a try, and finally decided to do so last month. Here are some videos to give you an idea. The second one is from a summer competition at the gym I go to:
Being a competitive person, I like racing others. However, what I enjoy even more is competing against myself. As a swimmer and runner, it was all about getting best times. Crossfit takes that to a whole new level because every workout is a competition against your previous best time/weight. The workouts incorporate skill and strength training, before finishing with a Workout of the Day, or WOD. Some of the WODs are made up by the coaches, and some are named WODs that are recognized by all Crossfit affiliates. Here is a list of all named WODs: http://athletics.wikia.com/wiki/CrossFit_Named_WODs. The WODs usually last about 5-15 minutes and the goal is either to do as many reps as possible in a given time, or to finish the workout as fast as possible. It really is amazing how exhausted a 15 minute workout can make you.
The gym I go to right now is Lalanne Fitness, Powered by Crossfit. The coaches are all really knowledgeable and there is a perfect blend of competitiveness and focus on technique. Currently we are doing a 20 rep back squat program. It is a 6 week program, with 2 sessions a week. Every session, you increase your weight up to 5 pounds. Today, we just did the 9th session, and for me it was 165 lbs. This clip shows a few reps in the middle of the set.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Since I have been a runner, I have really enjoyed making challenging treadmill workouts. Rather than just running for 8 miles straight, I like making sets that have a pattern. This is a short workout I have been doing for a while, but I just recently tailored it to make it perfect. I'm calling it "Death by Treadmill." Kind of a play on "Death by Barbell," a crossfit workout at the gym I go to. It is perfect for those days where you want to get a good workout but can't imagine running for an hour or more. Obviously, every person will be different, but for me, it is at that exact point where I can do it pretty much any day, but I always feel like I'm gonna puke at the end.
The entire workout takes 31 minutes, plus warm down. Here it is: First, run two miles easy warmup. You don't want to do the second half without warming up. The second half starts at 15 mins, so the faster you go, the more rest you get before the second part. I usually do a mile at 8mph (7:30) and one at 8.5-9.5mph (7:02-6:20), giving me around 45 seconds rest on average. After running 2 miles, jump off onto the sides of the treadmill but don't stop it.
During that 45 seconds of rest, set the treadmill at 15 incline and 8.5mph. It is tabata style, so you run for a specified period of time, and jump off onto the sides of the treadmill for a specified period of time. The first run is 30 seconds, and it increases by 1 second every time, so the last run is 45 seconds. 1 second may seem like nothing, but it also decreases your rest, so after 10 mins, you are running 40 seconds and getting 20 seconds rest. You always start the runs on the minute.
After each run, decrease the incline by 1, and increase the mph by .1. So the second run is 31 seconds at 14 incline and 8.6 mph. Then, 32 seconds at 13 incline, 8.7 mph. Adjust the values while you are standing on the sides of the treadmill and before you start again. Continue until the 16th run is 45 seconds at 0 incline and 10 mph.
Personally, I have found the 9-11 incline, 8.9-9.1 mph ones to be the hardest. It gets substantially easier for the last 5 or so. 31 minutes, and I guarantee you will get more out of it than if you ran 8+ miles straight. Obviously, adjust if for your own speed/abilities if you need to, but give it a shot, and let me know what you think.
Monday, October 10, 2011
This past weekend, I ran the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler. It was my second 50 mile race and my first since the same race last year. On the one hand, having run the course last year meant I knew what to expect in terms of the course profile and aid stations. However, it also made me feel as if anything slower than last year was a failure. 2 days before the race, there was a huge storm. The day of the race was actually rather sunny, but there were portions of the course that were still a little muddy. The last 5 miles of the course were changed because of mud from the storm.
I was pretty confident going into the race, and had tapered really well. I felt really good and was excited to put up a fast time. Going into last years race, I didn't know what to expect as it was my first 50 miler. Last year I went out rather slow and finished pretty fast. This year, however, I went out a little too fast and it cost me on the back half of the race. Through the first two aid stations, I ran with a group of about 6 or so runners. I came through the Bort Meadows aid station at mile 7.9 in 58 minutes. Last year I was at 1:04, so it was way too fast.
Having been in the sport of ultrarunning for a while now, I know a good number of the runners. I recognized some of the runners around me, and knew that they were pretty much my speed. I ran with them, and we were running at a comfortable pace. The mistake I made was not running to my own strengths, but being too focused on staying with the group. Downhills are my weakness while uphills and flat portions are my strengths. I pushed it a little too hard on some downhill stretches during the first 1/4 of the race to stay with the group. My glutes and quads were feeling pretty sore and at about mile 15, I knew that I went out too fast.
At mile 21.7, I hit the steam trains aid station. From here, there is a huge downhill, and a huge uphill. I got passed by a few people on the downhill, which I expected. I reached the turnaround at Lone Oak at 3:41. This was 5 minutes faster than last year, so I was hoping that I could still beat my time. I felt good on the uphill and was able to run much of it. I passed a few of the people who had passed me on the way down. Mile 30.3 is the steam trains aid station again. I knew that from here, most of the hills were done with. I thought that I could finish strong, but it was here that I fell apart. I started cramping and had a few charley horse false alarms. At Sibley, mile 33.6, I remember telling the aid station workers that the last 3 miles were the longest 3 miles of my life.
The next 10 miles were awful. I was cramping, and struggling to find a rhythm. I knew that I would not beat my time from last year, and frustration was setting in. At this point, I had been running for almost 6 hours, and all I wanted to do was finish. My toes and left knee were especially painful. My mom and brother were driving to each aid station. At the Skyline aid station at mile 37, I told my brother: "Only a half marathon to go." My mom later told me that I looked like hell at that point. Pretty much what I felt like too. It was extremely hot and despite the fact that I was drinking a ton and taking salt capsules at every aid station, I was still pretty dehydrated. Mile 44.1 is the Bort Meadows aid station.
The last 6 miles are basically flat and I was able to talk myself into finishing strong. I knew that regardless of my finish, I was going to be slower than last year. I was frustrated with the way I ran the race. I knew that I had been too overconfident and gone out too fast. Nevertheless, I convinced myself to finish the race in a way that I would be proud of. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got my head back on my shoulders, and finished the last 3 miles better than I have finished any other race. I ran my last mile in 6:17, and I passed 3 runners in the last mile and half.
Despite an overall disappointing race, I was happy with the way I finished. It may not have been my best physical performance, but it was definitely the strongest I have been in a race mentally. I have decided to take a break from running for a while. After last years race, I was excited to improve and push myself further. This time, I am content with the fact that sports for me are at most a hobby. Putting so much pressure on myself to succeed, and having a race like this one is a reality check that sports are supposed to be fun and a release from stress. For me, it has almost become an additional source of stress and too much of a sacrifice. At this point of my life, my athletic goals are going to be secondary to my professional and social life.
Monday, September 26, 2011
This past weekend I ran the Coastal 50k. I decided to do this race as a "tune-up" for the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler in two weeks. Even though my workouts have been good, I hadn't raced an actual ultra in almost a year. I knew that if I wanted to have a good race at Dick Collins, I needed to do a 50k beforehand just to give me some confidence. I didn't taper for the Coastal 50k because I wanted to run it on tired legs. I figured that if I could get through 50k with tired legs that I would be in good shape for Dick Collins.
The race was a point to point race, meaning that it started and finished in different locations. In the morning, we drove to the finish of the race at Rodeo Beach, and took a bus to the start at Stinson Beach. The course was absolutely stunnng, as there were some awesome views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge the whole time. Unfortunately, it was extremely foggy so we couldn't see as much as we would on a clear day. Most runners, including me, didn't mind the fog at all, as the running conditions were absolutely ideal.
The race started with almost 2000 ft of climbing over the first 3 miles. It was a pretty brutal start to the race, but it was nice knowing that we would be finishing nearly a third of the climbing for the entire 31 miles in the first 3 miles. I could definitely feel the lack of taper in my legs during those first 3 miles. I was forced to walk more than I normally would. It was a little frustrating, but was probably good because it kept me from going out too hard. Around 10k I looked at my watch and realized that it had already been an hour. I felt like the race had just started, so it was motivating to see how fast time was flying by.
The hill at 22k was the hardest of the race for me. Unlike some of the other hills, it had some stretches that were flat. However, there were a few parts that were extremely steep that just destroyed my legs. We then reached the horse stables at Miwok and began the hill at Marincello. I have run this hill dozens of times, as it is part of the loop I do on Thursday mornings in the Ninja Run. It was refreshing knowing what to expect, and I felt like I had a definite advantage over everyone else on that part of the course. At mile 21, I knew that it was basically one downhill to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and back. I felt pretty good at that point, and really enjoyed the last 10 miles of the race. I was very familiar with this part of the course as well, which made it mentally easier and fun.
The hill back up from the Golden Gate Bridge was where the Ninja Run begins. I have never had to walk this hill during the Ninja run as it is the first 2 miles of the run. During the race, however, I had to walk some portions, and it really put into perspective how much the first 26 miles had taken out of my legs. I was pushing it pretty hard the last 3 miles, and finished in a sprint. I actually felt like I had a lot left, and sort of wished that I had gone out harder.
Overall, I was really happy with the race. I wish I could have been more competitive with the top 3 runners, but considering the fact that I didn't rest for the race, I was very happy with my time. The most encouraging thing, however, was that I wasn't sore after the race at all. In the past, I have been unable to walk after a tough 50k. This time, however, I was almost fully recovered 24 hours after the race. The only exceptions were some blisters and chafing, but those are more acute problems that don't have anything to do with how good of shape I am in. This was very encouraging for my 50 miler. Even though I haven't raced much this past year, I think that having another year of running under my belt has dramatically helped my endurance.
Going into the Dick Collins, I need to figure out a minor things. My toes were getting destroyed on the downhills and were keeping me from going as fast as I could. I have taped my second toe in the past, because it is the longest of my toes and slams into the front of the shoe on downhills, so I may experiment with that again. Also, I run with my shoes pretty loose, so I might tighten them a little for Dick Collins. In any case, it was fun to get back in race mode, and now the taper for Dick Collins begins.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
One of the things that makes ultrarunning so different from other sports is the support that everyone has for each other. From the runners, to the event organizers, to the aid station volunteers, to the pacers... there is a huge sense of camaraderie between all participants. Instead of people competing against each other, it is as if everyone is competing against the course... together. This is only exaggerated in a 100 mile race, where runners are pushing themselves to their physical limits, often in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. It also explains why people volunteer to run an ultramarathon themselves as a pacer, to help a friend cross a finish line.
Last weekend was my first experience with a 100 mile race. I was not running the race, but was rather pacing my friend. Pacing an ultramarathon is basically joining a runner at some point during the race (generally the second half) and doing everything you can to help them cross the finish line. This includes, but is not limited to, keeping them on course, making sure they eat and drink enough, motivating them, being there for emotional support, and being there in case there is an animal encounter or some other problem. My friend Ben was running his first 100 miler, and I joined him for the second 50 miles. Ben's longest run before this was 50 miles so the feeling of not knowing what to expect was understandably overwhelming.
I joined him in the early evening and we ran all night, finishing the following morning. Although I have run at night before, this experience was unlike anything I had ever experienced. There is something powerful about running all night with a headlamp through windy trails. We heard lots of noises in the bushes, which was a little scary, but only saw a skunk and a few other harmless animals. When the sun came up and we could smell the finish line, it was as if we had gone to war and come out victorious. After we left the last aid station, and had about 5 miles left until the finish line, Ben knew that he was going to make it. He was overcome with emotion, and it made me so happy to have helped him achieve his goal. 29 hours and 16 minutes after starting, he crossed the finish line, to cheering family and friends. Most people have not been awake that long, let alone on their feet.
The course itself was rather frustrating. There was a technical six mile stretch that repeated 3 times, that mentally exhausted all the runners. It was the reason many runners dropped out. Part of the intrigue of a 100 miler is that it is so much more than a physical challenge. In fact, I would argue that the mental aspect is the real limiting factor. It is inevitable to consider quitting at some point during the race. Especially when there is 20, 30, 40+ miles to go, quitting sounds pretty nice. But it is what makes winning the mental battle and crossing the finish line that much more special. I have no doubt that I will do a 100 miler at some point as well. Being a part of a 100 mile race really made me want to do a full one at some point in my life.
The picture above is of a huge blister on my big toe that popped. Ben's feet weren't in any better shape... his big toe fell off.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
On Monday, I ran the Moraga 4th of July 5 mile run. I ran this race 2 years ago, so I was looking forward to comparing my times. 2 years ago I ran a 28.23, which is a 5:40 per mile. When I ran the race 2 years ago, I was doing a lot more speed work, including a track workout as one of my main weekly workouts, so I think I was better trained for the 5 mile distance back then.
I stayed at my parents' house the night before the race and walked to the starting line with them in the morning. My dad did the 2 mile run that started at the same time, and it was really fun to do a local race with my parents within walking distance from where I grew up. I ran about 3 miles to warm up and did a few strides.
The race started, and like most fun local community runs, way too many little kids were in the way the first 50 yards. I got into a good groove and ran the first mile in about 5:35. I ran the first 2 miles with three other runners before one of them took off and the other two dropped back. At mile 3, the heat really started to get to me. It was only around 9am, but being used to cool and foggy San Francisco weather, I was not prepared for it. After 3 miles, I knew that it was unlikely I would beat my time from 2 years ago, but still felt like it was possible I could make up 10 seconds in an all out sprint at the end. That didn't quite happen, but I still finished the race pretty strong, with a 5:42 final mile. I ended up running a 28:45 (5:45 average) and finishing 4th overall. See my garmin stats here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/97350398. I forgot to turn the watch off after the race so ignore everything after mile 5. Also, the splits are off by a few seconds per mile, as I went with the gps miles rather than manual splits.
When I crossed the finish line, my calves cramped up really bad. This is the second race in a row that this has happened (previous time was Oakland Marathon). In both races, I wore a new road shoe that has a much smaller heel to toe drop. I don't think it is the shoe by itself though that is causing the cramping. Instead, I think it is the lack of speed work on the roads. During road races, I probably overstride and heel strike. I have switched to more minimalist trail shoes as well and plan on wearing my vibrams around during the day. Once I start adding some more speed work to the mix, I have no doubt this issue will disappear.
See results here: http://www.fordtiming.com/Results/2011/MORAGA/5MILEOVERALL.HTM
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Had a pretty good week this week. Ran 56 miles and swam 10,500 yards... I ran 14 on Monday, Ninja run on Thursday, 20 on Saturday, and 10 on Sunday. I had a little bit of pain in my inner right calf towards the end of the week, but don't think it is anything serious.
I felt like garbage during the Ninja Run. I usually push that run pretty hard but really struggled this week. Since it is the exact same run every week, I notice when something isn't right. I just couldn't get my legs going or get my HR up this time. One of the other ninjas, Matt Forsman, suggested that it might be due to a lack of sleep and I'm pretty sure he was right. I haven't been sleeping enough recently, and it is beginning to take its toll on my body.
I felt really good during Saturday's long run. It was a little slower than usual, but I felt surprisingly good towards the end. It could be because I took in a few more calories before the run than I normally do.
On Sunday I ran 10 miles on the treadmill. The last 2 months or so, I've been doing a gym workout on Sundays. Among other things, it consists of a max deadlift set, usually 3 sets of 3 reps at max immediately followed by a medium long treadmill run. I have noticed an increase in my leg strength since I've started doing this. The biggest difference I see is on hills, which makes sense since deadlifting would theoretically increase glute/ posterior chain strength. I've been wanting to add squats as well but will probably wait on that for another few weeks. Usually a max deadlift or squat set would make you so sore for a few days that you couldn't run. However, by running immediately after, it gets the blood flowing and minimizes soreness. Since I usually take Mondays off and don't run till Tuesday afternoons, I get about 48 hours after the workout to recover. Swimming also helps with recovery. For those of you that have no idea what deadlift is, here is a random clip on youtube. I'm only lifting about half of the weight he is lifting there, but you can see how it would help increase leg strength. Also, heavy lifting like that helps boost your body's production of human growth hormone, which increases muscle production and recovery for all muscles, without steroids.
I'm planning on doing a 5 mile 4th of July run in my hometown. This race actually tends to be pretty fast since it is put on by the Campolindo High School Cross Country Team and the varsity cross country runners that do it are really good. I did this race two years ago, so it will be interesting to see how my time compares. If all goes well, I plan on running a half marathon at the end of August/early September. I haven't decided what race quite yet but am leaning towards the SF Marathon (second half).